ESPN would love an Ohio State/Michigan rematch


When the Big Ten signed a massive seven-year, $7 billion media rights deal with Fox, CBS, and NBC last year, ESPN was left out in the cold. However, if championship weekend gets wild and Michigan and Ohio State both make it to the College Football Playoff with the opportunity to play each other again, ESPN would be the ones reaping all the benefits.

Last weekend’s Michigan-Ohio State game broke records, as it became the most-watched college football game of the 2023 regular season, averaging 19.1 million viewers on Fox. It was also the most-watched regular-season game on any network since 2011. These numbers highlight the immense popularity and excitement surrounding the rivalry between these two teams.

FOX has been the lucky network broadcasting Michigan’s recent games, including their matchups against Penn State, Maryland, and Ohio State. However, this season, the Wolverines have appeared on various networks such as Peacock, NBC, The Big Ten Network, CBS, and FOX. This widespread coverage indicates the high demand for Michigan’s games and the immense interest in their dramatic season.

The College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday, with Georgia, Michigan, Washington, and Florida State leading the pack. The upcoming championship weekend will determine the final four teams that will compete for the title. The possibility of upsets and unexpected outcomes adds to the excitement and uncertainty surrounding the selection process.

If Alabama manages to upset Georgia, it could significantly impact the playoff picture. Similarly, a stumble by Michigan against Iowa could jeopardize their chances, despite their impressive wins over Ohio State and Penn State. The outcome of the Oregon-Washington game could also have a significant impact on the Pac-12 representation in the playoff. Additionally, the absence of Florida State’s starting quarterback raises questions about their candidacy and whether other teams are more deserving.

The executives at ESPN/ABC are likely hoping for upsets on championship weekend, as the inclusion of Michigan and Ohio State in the final four would generate substantial viewership and interest. ESPN, which missed out on broadcasting rights for the Big Ten, would benefit from the immense popularity of these two teams and the high stakes involved.

According to SportsMediaWatch, the Michigan-Ohio State matchup drew the largest audience for the rivalry since their No. 1 vs. No. 2 meeting in 2006. It also delivered the largest regular-season college football audience overall in 12 years. These statistics demonstrate the enduring appeal of the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry and the significant viewership it generates.

Regardless of personal preferences or the drama surrounding Michigan and Jim Harbaugh, the data proves that people are drawn to the excitement and intensity of their games. Earlier this season, Deion Sanders and Colorado garnered significant attention, but Michigan and Ohio State surpassed it in terms of viewership. The likelihood of a rematch between these two teams is rare, but if it were to happen, ESPN would undoubtedly benefit financially.

As championship weekend approaches, the college football landscape is filled with uncertainty and anticipation. The potential for upsets and unexpected outcomes adds to the intrigue and excitement for fans. For ESPN, the possibility of Michigan and Ohio State making it to the final four would be a dream scenario, as it would allow them to capitalize on the immense popularity and viewership generated by these two teams.

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